Pitlochry takes an excellent swipe at The Ruling Classes
Death by auto-erotic asphyxiation and two murders – ironically, what a laugh we had.
Peter Barnes’s swipe at the ruling classes is satire delivered with the force of a wrecking ball.
Its impact may now be somewhat diluted from its inception almost 50 years ago and the irony is that those who would find it the funniest can ill afford the price of a theatre ticket.
Indeed the whole production is clapped in ironies.
When the 13th Earl of Gurney’s erotic fantasies go fatally wrong while wearing a tutu, his estate is left to his schizophrenic son, Jack, much to the horror of his not-quite-so close-but-money-grabbing relatives.
Despite his assertion that he is Jesus Christ (“just call me JC”), all attempts to prove his madness and get him stripped of his inheritance are doomed to failure and the final irony is that what now passes for sanity is his evolution into Jack the Ripper.
This is a class war multiplied by 10, laced with oodles of humour and darkness, and, while totally bonkers, it nevertheless, provides Pitlochry’s not-inconsiderable acting talent the chance to display the many diverse genres in this play.
All at the same time, it is shocking, farcical, dramatic and there is even a fab musical number – think of Shakespeare mixed with the absurdness of Feydeau with a sprinkling of Alan Bennett and pantomime.
Barnes does create some memorable characters, and in John Durnin’s production, Jack Wharrier totally dominates in the marathon role of Jack – equally hilarious and sinister – while Ian Marr as the alcoholic Marxist butler is a joy.
It’s an energetic team with excellent contributions from Dougal Lee as Sir Charles, the scheming uncle, Joanna Lucas as the blonde stripper (Charles’s lover) set up to marry Jack, Mark Faith as the eccentric bishop, Ewan Petrie as Charles’s son who takes snobbery to new heights, and Alan Steele in a variety of guises.
And let’s not forget Rebecca Elise and Margaret Preece as the suitably-quiffed Tory ladies, whose rendition of Dem Bones with Jack will go down in Pitlochry Theatre folklore.
Pitlochry favourite Adrian Rees designed the set dominated by walls of portraits and a double staircase which, another irony, leads up to nowhere then down again.
There are now five productions up and running at Pitlochry and The Ruling Class continues on various dates until October 14.